If Arnold Schwarzenegger is being coy about whether he'll run for governor of California, it might be because he's in the middle of a more pressing campaign. With ''Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,'' he aims to reclaim his status as the man who once defined the Hollywood action hero. Schwarzenegger's last three films -- Collateral Damage, The 6th Day, and End of Days -- grossed an un-muscular $142 million collectively, a sad contrast with the ''Terminator'' franchise, created by ''Titanic'' auteur James Cameron in 1984. In fact, ''T2'' -- with its then-groundbreaking digital F/X, then-cool ''Hasta la vista'' catchphrase, and $205 million gross -- is still the biggest hit the seven-time Mr. Olympia has ever had.
Schwarzenegger, 55, has no delusions about the fact that his career has seen better days. And yeah, it hurts. ''Every time a movie doesn't go through the roof, you get pissed off,'' he says. ''I would be a vegetable if I wouldn't be. I have an ego.'' But he says it wasn't the need for a comeback vehicle that made him return to the role he calls his favorite. Turns out he likes that killer robot. ''This movie has had the most impact on my career. I owe this character a lot.''